Hitchcock’s 39 Steps was centered on mystery and suspense that gave the film a dark mood. The theatrical adaptation twisted this serious film and brought a fresh perspective through the interjection of comedy. Although the plotlines and characters remain the same, the play transformed the film through various techniques of the actor’s heightened exaggeration, the fast pace of the play, and the live connection and interaction with the audience.
For films, props become the essential support system to strengthen a certain emotion, to direct attention to a certain movement, or fill in the details of an empty space. Within the film there were no limits to the extent of their props. During Mr. Memory’s show, the movie filled the scene with an entire audience and incorporated a bar. During the play, however, the actors were limited to two box offices that had to mirror the same setting. Due to these constant restraints, the actors mask the lack of details with the exaggeration of their movements, speech, and interaction amongst the other actors. During the train scene, particularly, the actors created the constant swinging motion from the train, the billowing of the jacket when on top of the train, and the same jerking motion as the train came to a halt. These exaggerated movements allowed the audience to still conjure a scene within their minds without having the actors rely on numerous props and backdrops. The most prominent scene that captures the importance of actors occurred when Richard Hannay and Pamela trenched through the forest after escaping capture and one of the actors modeled after various natural objects, such as a rock. The actor bustled around the stage acting out these various objects bringing a comedic aspect to the scene.
To alter the overall mood of the film, the play changed the pace of the story. Throughout the play the scenes changed within moments as props would be shifted or be given a different purpose. Actors would constantly push props off the stage or pull them on the stage that would create a whole new scene. This is clearly evident as Richard departs from his home to the train station. The scene changed before the audience, as the furniture was pushed off the stage, luggage was modified to become the seating on the train, and a string of lights rose above the actors and swayed similar to that on a train ride. The constant movements and scene changes helped the plotline stay towards a more humorous feeling rather than suspenseful one.
The final component of the play that brought humorous ambiance was the interaction with the audience. The film is restricted due to the contact is narrowed only to the camera. The play, though, used the audience as their advantage by constantly staying in tune with their emotions. The actors would point out to the audience and the actors would even directly look into the faces of the front row audience while speaking during dramatic scenes. During the play, the actors would break character for a brief second during the humorous parts that brought an overall lighter tone to the plotline. Even the final scene playfully ended with the front row audience getting showered with “snow”. These interactions and connections overall breathe life into the play. These core components overall bring the play to an entire different genre from the original film.